September 12, 2008

Holiday Hell Over Operator Collapse


HUNDREDS of Northern Ireland holidaymakers were today dealt another blow following the collapse of a second tour operator in just two weeks.

People who booked holidays to Greece from Belfast with XL Leisure Group - the UK's third largest travel group - are facing massive disruption after the company went into administration and grounded flights.

The demise of XL is the latest blow to Northern Ireland travellers following the collapse of budget airline Zoom last month.

XL operated two routes from Belfast International Airport, which were scheduled to leave next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are also fears that hundreds of people from Northern Ireland who are on holiday having booked flights with XL may face difficulties getting home.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph today, BIA spokeswoman Deborah Matchett said the carrier, which was operating for a third summer in Belfast, was coming to the end of the season.

She said: "XL leisure group flew three times a week during the summer season from our airport - to Corfu on a Monday, Crete on a Tuesday and Rhodes on a Wednesday.

"Passengers booked on flights for next week should log on to the XL website at or the Belfast International Airport website at www.belfastair They should also contact their travel agent who can best advise them on seeking compensation through ATOL. They should not travel to the airport for flights next week."

She added: "While XL was a popular travel company with our customers the vast majority of holidaymakers in Northern Ireland continue to fly out of Belfast with Thomas Cook and TUI, over a quarter of a million this year alone.

"We estimate that there are likely to be less than 600 Northern Ireland XL passengers currently abroad, and their repatriation should be handled by the CAA. Their helpline number is +44(0)28 91856547."

XL also operated flights from Dublin to Spain and Greece. Four flights were scheduled on the routes. It is believed a number were cancelled today.

The Civil Aviation Authority said 85,000 people from across the UK could be stranded abroad and 200,000 have made advance bookings.

ATOL spokesman David Clover described the group's collapse as "a huge failure". He said "repatriation aircraft" were being scrambled.

An emergency helpline - +44 289 185 6547 - had been set up for "distressed customers". Holidaymakers abroad were advised to dial +44 208 242 4783, while those in the UK should call 0800 068 8991.

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